SOCIALIST PEOPLE’S LIBYAN ARAB JAMAHIRIYA: Civilians trapped in Benghazi in desperate conditions as fighting encroaches

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6 Oct 2016
[International Secretariat]

Fears are growing for hundreds of civilians who are trapped in a Benghazi neighbourhood which faces intensified fighting after several months under military blockade, Amnesty International said today.

The organization has gathered testimony from some of the 130 Libyan families and hundreds of foreign nationals who have been trapped for months in the residential district of Ganfouda, in south-west Benghazi. All entry roads are blocked by the fighting or Libyan National Army forces, and food, water and electricity supplies have been cut off.

“As the airstrikes intensify and the fighting moves ever closer, many people are too afraid to leave their homes. We are urging all parties to the fighting in Benghazi to respect international humanitarian law and allow unfettered access to humanitarian relief for civilians in need.”

A military offensive named Operation Dignity was launched in mid-2014 by former General Khalifa Haftar against Islamist militias and armed groups in Benghazi, which later formed a coalition known as the Shura Council of Benghazi Revolutionaries (SCBR). During fighting in the city, both sides have committed serious human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, in some cases amounting to war crimes.

Mohamed, a resident of Ganfouda, told Amnesty International that airstrikes and artillery shelling have intensified and moved closer over the past week. He spoke of the desperate need for humanitarian supplies, especially for children.
He described how constant, indiscriminate shelling and lack of electricity, which has been cut for over two years, leaves them huddled at home in the dark. “It’s like we’re in prison,” he said.

As well as the lack of basic supplies, people are also living in constant fear of airstrikes and shelling.

“There are constant airstrikes, and we don’t leave our houses at all,” said a woman trapped with her four young children. She has no baby powder or medical supplies for her daughter, and the lack of clean water is becoming a serious concern.

“All the warring parties must take all feasible precautions to protect the lives of civilians caught up in the fighting in Ganfouda and other parts of Libya in line with their obligations under international humanitarian law,” said Magdalena Mughrabi.

Amnesty International has expressed concern for an estimated 130 detainees who were abducted by the armed group Ansar al-Sharia in 2014 and are also trapped under fire in Benghazi. Recent media reports suggest that as many as 20 detainees may have been killed in airstrikes.

Hundreds of foreign nationals are believed to be amongst those trapped in Ganfouda. According to media reports, at least five Sudanese nationals were killed in an airstrike in mid-August.

“We’re living like animals,” said another resident who lives in Ganfouda with his wife, three sons and a one year old daughter. He has also taken in three other families– bringing the number of people living in their household to 24. Civilians are also scared that they may be subjected to attacks based on their perceived support for SCBR forces, after a tribal leader affiliated with Operation Dignity stated at the end of August that any person over the age of 14 should not be allowed to leave Ganfouda alive.

“All sides should be facilitating the delivery of aid and granting civilians who wish to leave the area safe passage. Civilians should not be used as human shields, and those who wish to leave must be protected from arbitrary detention, torture or any other abuses, “said Magdalena Mughrabi.

30 September 2016

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